Housing, land, Mr Fluffy, and ACT Government priorities

Roger Allnutt 25 April 2017 6

When my wife and I married in 1970 we bought a modest privately built home in Garran – then a newly developed suburb – for the grand sum of $14,000. That covered the house and land. In the five years we stayed there, our two children were born.

Many years later we were disturbed to find out that the house had been declared a Mr Fluffy house and was to be demolished. We had no knowledge during our time there that the house contained asbestos fill and I subsequently discovered from the son of the couple who bought the house from us (we belong to the same club) was also unaware.

Having spent five years in a house presumably with loose fill and given the concerns re the possibility of severe illness arising many year later I rang the Asbestos Task Force. They claimed they could give me no information of when the fill had been put there – privacy concerns were mentioned – despite the fact that they must have had some reason to declare our original home one of the Mr Fluffy houses. It was suggested I should consult with the titles office to see if they held any information.

Given that no one was taking any responsibility for this debacle, I have watched with interest the ensuing actions by the ACT government, particularly in relation to buying owners out, the high price demanded for those owners to get back on their blocks and now the auction of the blocks which undoubtedly the government hopes to make a killing from.

My home was at 18 Sabine Close and the adjacent property at number 20 was also apparently contaminated. I watched as both houses were demolished – number 18 much later than number 20.

About a year ago construction of a new house commenced at number 20. Much to my surprise, this partially completed building was itself demolished which left two adjacent cleared and presumably remediated blocks for sale. The recent auction of the remediated blocks – some single and a few double blocks – realised the grand total of $1.9m for the original two in Sabine Close.

I was informed by the auctioneers that in accordance with new planning rules, the developer who bought the blocks would most likely cram as many apartments/units as possible onto the dual site. Such a development would unfortunately alter the character of this quiet cul de sac.

The topography of the two blocks in Sabine Close is very steep and without major excavation will make it difficult for multi-unit development.

I wonder if the developer has been told about the spring which regularly caused flooding in the basement of our original house.

Recent actions by the ACT government seem to reinforce the desire to eliminate as many single occupancy blocks as possible, forcing dual occupancy and multi-unit living as standard. Combined with the infill of any available green space, the ‘bush capital’ is rapidly becoming a thing of the past – despite the recent new number plate slogan.

Photo: Cleared block at 18 and 20 Sabine Close, Garran. Photo by Roger Allnutt.

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6 Responses to Housing, land, Mr Fluffy, and ACT Government priorities
judy judy 2:19 pm 17 Nov 18

This is than email I sent to the ACT Gov opposition and local newspapers.Ive lodged my objection I will keep you posted of developments.

Dear Canberra Labor/Green Government,

Was the Mr Fluffy debacle which seriously and negatively affected the lives of so many innocent people a opportunistic strategy by the ACT Government to increase its number of inner suburb dwellings. There is some evidence to indicate that the Government may have acted inappropriately and in a greedy and callous manner. https://the-riotact.com/housing-land-mr-fluffy-and-act-government-priorities/199269

Unfortunately, the saga continues. The cul-de-sac where I live has always only been single story dwellings due to its rating of RZ1. However, within the 12-18 months preceding the Mr Fluffy second round debacle, the government changed the rating for the northern side of Ossa Place to RZ2. This allows for two storey dwellings to be constructed on those blocks. Guess what, one of the blocks on the RZ2 side turned out to have a Mr Fluffy house on it. The Government failed to sell the block because it is small and oddly shaped. The Government now proposes to build a two storey apartment block of 2-4 units on that block. It will negatively impact on the RZ1 households as it will stick up like a sore thumb. Further, as far as I can tell, this will mean that Ossa Place will now have a higher proportion of government owned dwellings than is permitted in a typical Woden Valley suburb. It is an insidious urban increase by the government in specific locations. I invite the ACT government to respond to this letter and correct any errors I may have made. Please click ‘ Reply All’ when you do.

AngryIan AngryIan 6:43 pm 30 Apr 17

If you look at how we abuse our land it is a wonder we survive here. We should be charging people for the land they use at a rate of over $200,000 / m2 yes $200k per square metre. That way we could have large vertical complexes, more efficient public transport and other public services, better green space and far more affordable housing for all. The Island of Manhattan is smaller than the developed land of Canberra and house 11 million people.
If you want the green space use then use the common area and mingle with the rest of society.
If you want everyone to have a back yard then pay the price for more roads and more congestion like Sydney and Melbourne

planeguy planeguy 9:51 pm 28 Apr 17

HiddenDragon said :

“I was informed by the auctioneers that in accordance with new planning rules, the developer who bought the blocks would most likely cram as many apartments/units as possible onto the dual site.”

Interesting – surely the rules which allow a dual occupancy on a single Mr Fluffy block would mean four apartments/townhouses on a double/adjoining block(s)?

I’m not sure that there are any Fluffy specific changes that apply to either of theblock individually, or when consolidated. The main Fluffy rle change affected dual occupancy for blocks between 700 and 800m2. Each of these blocks is greater than 800m2 and the combine 1771m2 is obviously larger again.

That being said, these blocks are in an RZ2 planning zone, which has always allowed greater than single residential development. As such, as long as the design is not especially apalling, then this development prospect across from retained green space, on an elevated position overlooking the Woden Valley, and close to major employment centres, is probably a good development.

Also, I am not sure why planning folks should care about whether a developer knows a block is steep, or has water flowing through it (unless they are environmental flows). That’s what the developer’s architect, engineer, builder and financier need to worry about.

Finally, as to whether the government has been fair with Fluffy buybacks. The Government has no doubt been lucky that the market has soared at the right time for them, but I don’t think we can say that the sellers are unlucky – they should be paid fair market value at time of sale, not at some designated time in the future. How does the 1.9m compare to the combined price paid by the government for the two blocks, and their costs in remediating the land? How much of that 1.9m is because of the rapid price inflation in the last two years?

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 4:50 pm 28 Apr 17

“I was informed by the auctioneers that in accordance with new planning rules, the developer who bought the blocks would most likely cram as many apartments/units as possible onto the dual site.”

Interesting – surely the rules which allow a dual occupancy on a single Mr Fluffy block would mean four apartments/townhouses on a double/adjoining block(s)?

JC JC 10:29 pm 27 Apr 17

I doubt they would have any detail of when houses had Mr Fluffy installed unless records were kept by the proprietor and handed over some 20 years later to the original Mr Fluffy clean up project.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 2:03 pm 27 Apr 17

Hi Roger, This is advice only and not in any way to be taken as official.

Mr Fluffy pumped their asbestos into houses during the 1960s and 1970s. In areas that Included Garran. OK that bit you know……

However, If your house was bought as new from your builder it is ‘unlikely’ to have had Mr Fluffy installed at the time of the original build. Some Public housing in Garran had Mr Fluffy installed during the build, but new builds ‘tended’ not to, as Insulation was either not installed at all by the builder or a product other than Mr Fluffy was simply and cheaply installed during the build.

If you did not independently purchase an install of Mr Fluffy during the first five years you lived at your house (I presume you would remember this), it was more than likely installed by someone in the house in the mid to late 1970s. As was often the case in this period, Mr Fluffy installers would door knock houses across Suburbs particularly Kambah and Pearce (but also other parts of Tuggeranong, Woden & Belco etc).

I am personally shocked that you are not provided with an install date from the Mr Fluffy business records that the Government and Taskforce has to allay your fears. This is a pretty weak excuse you have been given and I would try and FOI request. Good luck.

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